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North Park

Staph Infections Hit 3 Students At Park District Gymnastics Center, Forcing It To Shut Down

The Peterson Gymnastics Center at 5801 N. Pulaski Ave. closed at noon Tuesday after workers learned three kids had gotten sick.

Gymnastics mats sit outside the Peterson Gymnastics Center after students developed staph infections.
Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
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NORTH PARK — The Chicago Park District abruptly shuttered its Peterson Gymnastics Center in the North Park neighborhood Tuesday after three students developed staph infections.

The center is not expected to reopen until Oct. 1, said Park District spokeswoman Irene Tostado.

The center at 5801 N. Pulaski Ave. inside Peterson Park was closed at noon Tuesday after workers there became aware of three students with cases of staph infections, Tostado said in an email.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
The Peterson Gymnastics Center at 5801 N. Peterson Ave. in North Park.

In an email to parents, the park district said the center is undergoing a deep cleaning.

“Out of an abundance of caution due to recent occurrences of staph infections in the building – the Gymnastics Center will replace equipment and undergo a deep clean by an environmental cleaning company.”

On Tuesday evening, several gym mats were on the side of the center, next to Dumpsters. As to what could be cleaned and what had to be discarded, Tostado said “all mats with a breach were disposed of out of an abundance of caution. We are following all Center for Disease Control (CDC) infection control guidelines.”

Park district officials also asked parents to seek medical advice and inform the park district if their children complain of any symptoms. 

Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
The Peterson Gymnastics Center at 5801 N. Peterson Ave. in North Park.

In its email to parents, the park district laid out the symptoms of staph infections and asked parents to seek medical advice if needed.

“Should your child have or complain of any symptoms, please seek medical advice and inform the Park District,” the email read. “Staph bacteria can spread easily through cuts, abrasions and skin-to-skin contact. Staph infections may also spread in the locker room through shared razors, towels, uniforms or equipment.”

Staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, types of germs commonly found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy individuals, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most of the time, these bacteria cause no problems or result in relatively minor skin infections.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
The Peterson Gymnastics Center at 5801 N. Peterson Ave. in North Park.

But staph infections can turn deadly if the bacteria invade deeper into your body, entering your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs or heart. A growing number of otherwise healthy people are developing life-threatening staph infections.

Treatment usually involves antibiotics and drainage of the infected area; however, some staph infections no longer respond to common antibiotics.

Staph infections can range from minor skin problems to endocarditis, a life-threatening infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). As a result, signs and symptoms of staph infections vary widely, depending on the location and severity of the infection. Symptoms include boils, skin rashes, signs of food poisoning, and blood poisoning or septicemia, which comes with signs of fever and low blood pressure.

The center is usually open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Park District officials urged patrons to check its website and social media pages to confirm when the cleaning is complete and when the center will reopen.

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